By James Allen, Bay Store Manager, Herne Bay Reculver Road
Speaking from personal experience, I’ve nothing but great things to say about apprenticeships. I first joined Co-op back in 2016 as a Customer Team Member (CTM). I jumped at the chance to be one of the first cohorts taking part in the new apprenticeship scheme. Starting out on the programme, I relished the opportunity to meet new stakeholders, learn new skills and build strong working relationships. Successfully passing Level 2, I was also enjoying career success where I was promoted to a Team Leader and moved to a petrol forecourt store.
I progressed through Level 3, achieving a distinction and also being recognised as the Apprentice Of The Year for my commitment and hard work on the programme – I couldn’t have been any prouder of myself. By working hard I was able to reap the benefits from the apprenticeship, successfully completing my assessment to become a Store Manager. Currently, I still hold this role whilst continuing on the prestigious degree apprenticeship with the ultimate aim of becoming an Area Manager when I complete my studies.
National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) shines a light on the many positive aspects of an apprenticeship for businesses, communities and the individuals themselves. Co-op is a member of the All-Party Group on Apprenticeships, which brings together MPs and Lords to consider and debate apprenticeship policy. As part of the activities during NAW, the Minister for Apprenticeships, Gillian Keegan MP hosted an ‘Ask The Apprentice’ session where a panel made up entirely of apprentices answered questions from Parliamentarians.
The session was an opportunity for apprentices to share their experiences directly with MPs and to share ideas about what could be done to make apprenticeships even better in the future. More than 90 people attended virtually on Zoom and it was great to hear the stories from other apprentices working for businesses like Amazon and BAE. The most surprising thing was that the Minister for Apprenticeships had started out as an apprentice herself!
I’m just one success story out of many, in fact, there are currently over 1,200 apprentices making a real impact across our businesses so to be selected as the spokesperson to represent Co-op was a huge honour for me. It was the perfect platform for me to not only share my journey, but to really showcase just how successful our apprenticeship programme is.
The apprenticeship team have got lots of exciting plans to further develop the programme in the future, ensuring it helps us continue to create a more diverse and inclusive culture. With programmes ranging from Level 2 to degree level and beyond there’s something for everyone. Keep a look out for future opportunities, I’d whole heartedly encourage you to get involved if you can.